Cannibal study darkens mad cow outlook

Jun 23, 2006

A British researcher, using a study of cannibals, warns that mad cow disease may eventually kill lot more humans than is known now.

The findings, published Friday in the British medical journal Lancet, were drawn from a study of cannibals in New Guinea who had enjoyed long lives until they fell victim to a brain-wasting disease.

The research by the University College in London studied kuru, a disease that had taken a heavy toll of the cannibals. It said kuru can incubate for decades but then can start a quick, irreversible descent into dementia and death, reports The New York Times.

"Recent estimates of the size of the vCJD epidemic based on uniform genetic susceptibility could be substantial underestimations," said Dr. John Collinge, the study's lead author. Humans get vCJD, or variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, from cows with mad cow disease.

The Times said several experts on prion diseases, blamed for killing the New Guinea cannibals and British eaters of infected beef, praised the work of the researchers but felt the findings did not prove there will be future waves of deaths among people who ate beef from prion-infected cows in the 1980's. So far about 160 people, mostly in Britain, have died of vCJD.

Collinge said he was not predicting a specific number of deaths. He also said he did not believe the disease is disappearing.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Babies as young as 6 months using mobile media

Related Stories

Myth of tolerant dogs and aggressive wolves refuted

5 hours ago

Dogs are regarded as more tolerant and less aggressive compared to their ancestors, the wolves. Researchers from the Messerli Research Institute at the Vetmeduni Vienna question this image. They show in a ...

Recommended for you

Babies as young as 6 months using mobile media

7 minutes ago

More than one-third of babies are tapping on smartphones and tablets even before they learn to walk or talk, and by 1 year of age, one in seven toddlers is using devices for at least an hour a day, according to a study to ...

Niger battles deadly meningitis epidemic

9 hours ago

Parents cradling sick children in their arms streamed into a treatment centre in Niger's capital Niamey, the victims of a meningitis epidemic that has claimed over 100 lives and appears to be accelerating.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.